14 January – 1 March 1998
Juan Cruz’s recent work has taken other art, be it literary or visual, famous or neglected, and subjected it to a process of translation. This process often dwells on the relationship between narrative and physical space and how spatial experience can be powerfully suggested or created through even the slightest of means.
In Translating Don Quijote, 1996, Cruz made an oral translation of Cervantes’ novel sitting at a table for two weeks. The artist made no acknowledgement of the audience which was present over the duration of the performance, but engaged solely with the continuing process of the translation. No record of the translation was kept, the product of the artist’s efforts only existing for the different viewers who were present at the exact moment of the translation. Although this may suggest that what was important within the work was the act rather than the results of the translation, perhaps as important for the artist was that during the work he became an entity defined by its activity, almost like a functioning object rather than a performer.
The artist’s recent series of drawings of stage directions from Chekhov plays continued his attempt to explore the parallels between narrative and physical space. Drawn onto walls in faint grey pencil these works imply a spatial narrative through the slightest of presences, creating the impression of a space in the mind of the viewer within the apparently empty container of the gallery.
In his exhibition for Matt’s Gallery the artist will make a distinct shift away from a cultural source, instead taking the village of Sancti Petri in the province of Cadiz on the south coast of Spain as his starting point. The now derelict village of Sancti Petri was constructed in the 1940s to serve as a base for the newly industrialised fishing activities of that part of the coast. The village contained harbour facilities, a fish processing plant, dwellings for the fishermen and workers and all the amenities that the people would have needed to live there - such as a school, a church, a bar and town hall.
Cruz collated information, selected images, translated and edited texts in the gallery space in which the work is exhibited. Situated in the centre of the gallery are a small group of functional objects - a screen, a projector and stand, a tape-deck and speakers - which form the essential structure in the space. Through projected slides and a recorded voice a description of Sancti Petri unfolds. Presented in full daylight rather than in the expected darkness, the materiality of the presentation is compromised, highlighting its physical nature as much as its narrative. It is as if the distant village were struggling to make its presence felt in its new location, the work being the summation of an attempt to remember, describe and ultimately attribute value to one place from the perspective of another.
Juan Cruz was born in Palencia, Spain in 1970. This is his first solo exhibition in a public gallery.
The exhibition has been supported by the cultural office of the Spanish Embassy.